Marked NYPD vehicles clogged a bus stop at Sutter Avenue and Essex Street — across from the 75th Precinct in East New York.
In Washington Heights, three of the four cars parked at a bus stop on Broadway near the 34th Precinct had police parking placards on their dashboards.
And by the 13th Precinct in Gramercy, a pair of buses rolled by would-be riders obscured from view by two Auxiliary Police vehicles in a stop along Third Avenue.
“This is ridiculous, these cars shouldn’t be here,” said Jamie Winnick, after an M102 bus skipped the blocked stop at Third Avenue and East 21st Street. “So now I’ve got to walk up a stop to get a bus because I can’t catch one here unless I want to step into the street.”
THE CITY this week spot-checked bus stops near 24 precincts and police buildings across every borough and found 11 that were obstructed by police vehicles or barricades.
Despite pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio and police brass to crack down on placard and parking abuses, that figure is worse than last August, when THE CITY reported that eight bus stops near 24 precincts and outposts for transit and housing cops were being commandeered by police.
“When the mayor refuses to police the police, you’ve got a problem,” said Ben Fried of TransitCenter, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
The growing problem of blocked bus stops comes as more New Yorkers have turned to surface transit during the pandemic. For months, as subway use sunk during the coronavirus crisis, daily bus ridership exceeded underground traffic for the first time in more than half a century.
But commuters still had to contend with bus stops and bus lanes blocked by vehicles that aren’t supposed to be there.
“They occupy everywhere,” said Alician Greenidge, gesturing to the NYPD vehicles on the sidewalks and in the Sutter Avenue bus stop near the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn. “It’s not just cop cars, but they put their private vehicles there as well, and that also takes up space.”
‘A Safety Issue’ and a Familiar Refrain
MTA bus drivers have had to contend with blocked stops as the transit agency tries to speed service. But MTA figures show that the average bus speed in June during peak periods — 8.3 miles per hour — was only slightly better than the 8.0 miles per hour average speed from March.
“Parking in bus stops prevents customers from boarding buses safely, makes access particularly difficult for people with disabilities and slows down our bus system,” said Craig Cipriano, head of buses for the MTA. “We continue to work to clear blockage of bus lanes and busways that disrupts service for New Yorkers trying to get to their jobs, doctors or wherever they need to go.”
Fried, of TransitCenter, said City Hall could take two basic routes to curb placard and parking abuse. One would focus on NYPD reforms that would reduce the size of the department’s vehicle fleet and order internal discipline around parking laws.
“The other would be to shift parking enforcement to the [city Department of Transportation], where it used to reside, and do an end run around NYPD’s culture of parking corruption,” Fried said.
Terence Monahan, the NYPD’s chief of department, told THE CITY in a statement that police brass are keeping tabs on the parking problems.
“Although parking can be challenging, the streets around NYPD facilities are no exception — and the members of the department who work there are held to the highest standards,” he said. “Chiefs in every bureau will be providing close oversight to ensure all personnel do not park any vehicle in a bus stop or a manner that creates a dangerous condition for New Yorkers.”
Last year, a police spokesperson gave THE CITY a similar statement, saying, “Except in emergencies, marked and unmarked NYPD vehicles may not be parked in bus stops and lanes. This policy, designed to ease congestion as part of the department’s commitment to ensure safe streets, is communicated to precinct commanders across the city and is reinforced with borough chiefs at weekly meetings on traffic and transportation.”
Many who live near police facilities said they’re skeptical that the police will ever change their behavior.
“Maybe the police officers are in a hurry so they park in a bus stop,” said Getachew Wondimu, 44, who lives near the 32nd Precinct on West 135th Street in Harlem, where several vehicles with police placards blocked a Bx32 stop. “But nobody gives them tickets, so the bus stop is blocked like this every day.”
At a stop near Police Service Area 6 on Frederick Douglass Boulevard — where officers regularly stashed their vehicles in an M10 bus stop near West 147th Street — metal barricades were put in place to keep it from being used for parking.
Bus riders still have to step into the street to catch a bus.
“That’s a safety issue,” said Shelby Bennett, 44, who lives across from the M10 stop. “It’s not fair that you should have to stand in the street for the bus.”